German Harpsichord Works
So far, Sophie Yates’s discography on Chandos has, for the most part, steered admirably clear of single-composer discs, preferring instead to drop in on the harpsichord repertoires of France (11/93), Iberia (11/94), England (12/95) and Italy (9/97) respectively. Now it is Germany’s turn. Froberger dominates the selection, and deservedly so; his emotionally sensitive harpsichord music is surely the most interesting and enduring to have emerged from his country before Bach, and in his superb Tombeau fait a Paris sur le mort de Monsieur Blancheroche he approaches real greatness. Yates’s choice of pieces deliberately emphasizes his famously melancholy side, an emotional atmosphere which she extends to the rest of the disc by picking mainly minor-key music. That does not mean, however, that this recital is a dreary one; rather, it shows just how beautiful – in its earnest and rather complex way – German seventeenth-century music can be, while at the same time offering a few virtuoso fireworks in the three big pieces by Pachelbel, Muffat and Kerll. Ironically it is in these that Yates performs best, for hers is a neat, strongly controlled technique which can fire off internal trills and swirling left-hand passagework with impressive precision.
The Froberger pieces, by comparison, are less successful. Yates is not naturally adventurous with rubato and phrasing, and while she can drive a passacaglia onwards and let the repetitions create their own momentum, in music as eloquent as a Froberger suite she seems to miss some of the music’s powerful rhetorical qualities. I also found the gigues and courantes a little laboured. On balance, this is a disc well worth having for rare music played by an exceptionally competent performer. But when it comes to Froberger, the competition is tough'